story | Chia Jie Lin, Contributing Reporter; Rachel Hau, Contributing Reporter
photo | Elesin Teo, Contributing Photographer
On Jan. 29, residents of Elm College’s odd-numbered (sky garden) floors found themselves unable to call lifts from their levels. In contrast, residents of even-numbered (non sky garden) floors mysteriously found that they could now take the lifts to and from their floors.
This change in lift policy caught students by surprise, some of whom were inconvenienced by this sudden change in lift operations. Sharlene Chow ’18, who is currently in a wheelchair due to sports injuries, found herself stranded on her floor. Chow said, “It took me four hours to reach Infra through my DF and for them to activate lift access on my floor.”
For several students in Elm College, this caused concerns. Conversations about the policy started with a Facebook post by Jay Lusk ’18. In a post that has since been deleted, Lusk said that the policy should have been implemented after prior community consultation. His online petition against the new lift policy gathered 35 votes before being presented for consideration at the Elm College Council (ECC) meeting held the next day. Anthea Julia Chua ’20 said that “(housing) decisions were made based on a set of factors and… any changes should not be applied retroactively, but instead should be made only for the coming academic year”.
With regard to fire safety regulations, Cephas Tan ’18 cited Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 of the fire safety requirements for persons with disabilities (PWD) by the Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF). According to Tan, changing the lift policy to stop on even floors would constitute a violation of the fire safety requirements laid out by the SCDF. However, when The Octant reached out to the Infrastructure Office regarding the lift policy change, they said that “our facilities management policy always accounts for SCDF’s regulations, whether our lifts stop at sky garden floors or other floors.”
In contrast, other students voiced their support for the policy change, arguing that the change accorded a sense of equity between odd and even floors. However, when The Octant approached several of these students, they declined to comment on the issue.
The concerns raised were addressed in the ECC meeting that was convened on Jan. 30. The meeting saw a turnout of eight ECC members, one Residential College Advisor, eight other students, and Elm Residential College Rector Brian McAdoo. In the meeting, Mr. McAdoo said his decision was made out of concern for equity and felt that it reflected the Elm College values of fairness.
Mr. McAdoo also apologized for the abrupt change in policy, and said that the Infrastructure office informed him only five minutes before the change. At the end of the meeting, the ECC recommended that Elm College should revert back to its original policy and deliberate on potential changes in policy for the upcoming academic year.
Mr. McAdoo later said in an email sent to all Elm College students that while changing the lift-stopping policy could have been more consultative, he was “surprised that this caused such a negative reaction”. Additionally, he said that in consultation with the ECC, the Elm College Office “will create a new policy that addresses the issue of which floors the lifts will stop on”, so that Elm students would be better informed when making rooming choices for the upcoming academic year.
On Feb. 6, the Elm College lift policy reverted to its original policy. In an email to Elm College sent earlier that morning, Mr. McAdoo reiterated that the initial change in policy was to “share the privilege of lift access.” He continued, “I offer you my most sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused, and for the consternation amongst those who felt negatively impacted.”
For the rest of the semester, the Elm lifts will stop only at sky garden floors, as per the original policy. Whether this lift policy will be continued for the upcoming academic year remains to be seen. Moving forward, Mr. McAdoo has encouraged Elm students to bring up any issues concerning the lifts with the ECC. Mr. McAdoo said that the ECC “will make a recommendation to me, and I will discuss your recommendation with my colleagues to make sure that a fair decision [on the lift policy] is reached.”